Benefits Available to Eligible Mainers After Biden Administration Drops Defense of Public Charge Rule

March 16, 2021

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced that it will no longer defend the prior administration’s implementation of the 2019 public charge rule, which penalized eligible Mainers for using benefits they are entitled to by law.

The public charge rule, enacted in August 2019, allowed the federal government to revoke the legal status of, or deport, immigrants who used certain benefit programs for which they were eligible by law, including MaineCare health coverage, nutrition assistance programs (including SNAP), and housing assistance. In addition, concern over the implications of the rule may have caused some immigrants to avoid using other benefits not subject to public charge, including health coverage for children through MaineCare and CubCare (CHIP) and subsidized health insurance available through the Health Insurance Marketplace, or to avoid enrolling even if their status would not make them subject to the public charge rule.

Maine’s Attorney General joined with 17 other states to challenge the legality of the 2019 public charge rule. On March 9, 2021, the Biden Administration announced it would not defend the rule change in court, and as a result, the public charge rule is no longer being enforced. DHS has reverted to earlier rules that consider a much more limited set of government programs when determining if an individual would be deemed a “public charge.” More information about the current status of the public charge rule is available from DHS.

People living in Maine who qualify for the following programs can now sign up and use their benefits without worrying about an impact on their immigration status:

  • Help to purchase food through the SNAP program
  • Assistance to secure affordable housing
  • Access to affordable health care options including:
    • MaineCare coverage for low-income adults and children (except in some cases when the individual requires long-term care in a nursing facility).
    • Premium subsidies available through the Health Insurance Marketplace to make insurance more affordable. Many people who are not eligible for MaineCare based on their income or their immigration status can qualify for this financial help to buy a high-quality health plan that covers doctor’s visits, prescription drugs, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, and emergencies.

A special enrollment period through the Health Insurance Marketplace is happening now through May 15, 2021. To apply for a plan, visit Maine people can also explore their options for health insurance coverage, including MaineCare, at any time of year, at or by calling 1-800-965-7476.

This is not intended as legal advice. More information is available from the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project and Maine Equal Justice.